Burger Week: #2: Pancetta Cheeseburger with Monkey Gland Sauce

Carrying on with Burger Week at Arcisfoodblog: 7 posts on some of the more remarkable burgers I “encountered” in the past couple of months; either homemade or in restaurants.

Today, it is not about the homemade burger (which was pretty good, by the way), but the topping: South African Monkey Gland sauce! No monkey parts involved, I promise…

I think that not one South African person can tell you that they have never saw a braai (wood fire BBQ), it is such a huge part of South African life. Even as tourists we have encountered and participated in various braais. The recipe for this staple condiment is based on the one in Jan Braai’s Braai cookbook (published in English as Fireworks). 

Firstly: Jan Braai is not his real name, it is a pseudonym of Jan Scannell. But the name stuck as he was the initiator of the National Braai Day initiative in 2005. To paraphrase Archbishop Desmond Tutu (the patron of the initiative), it intends to bring all South Africans together on their National Heritage Day (September 24) nurturing and embracing a common South African culture, which is shared across all races, languages, regions and religions. And nothing better to do achieve that by lighting a fire and enjoying a braai with others…

Secondly: as said, there are no monkey parts involved. The name is most commonly attributed to a popular trend in the early 1920s called xenotransplantation (transplanting non-human tissue in/onto humans) and more specifically grafting monkey testicle tissue onto the testes of men for “purportedly therapeutic purposes”. 🙈🙉🙊

Anyway, monkey gland sauce is a fabulous tangy sauce that goes brilliantly with pretty much all grilled meats. The sauce commonly consists of chopped onion, garlic and ginger and a combination of (fruit or onion) chutney, soy sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and (port) wine.

Its potential origin could be London and then exported to South Africa. Another funny anecdote I found coins it to “imported” French chefs that purposely mixed various condiments they found in the kitchen to spite snobby nouveau riche South Africans in the early 1920s. The sauce became an unexpected hit anyway and rightfully so. It has more depth of flavour than your regular BBQ sauce and it’s really easy to make too!

The recipe: 

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 125ml /1/2 cup water
  • 400g / 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml / 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • 200ml / onion chutney
  • 125ml Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce (I used Tabasco’s Chipotle Worcestershire sauce, so I didn’t need to add any regular Tabasco sauce)
  1. In a sauce pan, heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat and fry the onions and garlic until soft.
  2. Add all other ingredients, stir until combined and bring to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat to low and keep at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until thickened.

Smaaklike ete!

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